I decided to begin reading Stuart Murray’s, Representing Autism, before starting Mukhopadhyay’s, How Can I Talk if my Lips Don’t Move. Almost immediately, I realized that I was entering Mukhopadhyay’s work with an already presupposed narrative about autism. I have not had any real life encounters with an autistic person (that I am aware) and the only experience I have had with it is through the representations in the media i.e. television and movies. I was also exposed to a very vague explanation ad about autism through the Learn the Signs Ad council campaign. My initial ideas about autism was that it affected the way children read words and that those children are extremely reserved. However, I was not aware of other symptoms that Mukhopadhyay experiences and Stuart also mentioned. Having hands flapping around during an episode or being unable to experience more than one sense at a time came as unexpected.
It is clear that I was only exposed to what Murray states as the, “stories, accounts and versions that create an idea of autism rather than try to reflect one”. This makes me question whether the media or anyone who writes about autism have a responsibility to accuracy in their dissemination of the topic. I think that this is why work like Mukhopadhyay and the other authors Murray mentions are necessary. While the misconceptions about autism are more widely spread because of the media, having accurate accounts on the subject can begin the work of correcting these “created” stories.
I was also very interested in the media profiling aspect of autistic criminals. Murray asserts that, “increasingly autism and Asperger’s feature in the media profiles of those accused of crime…” I automatically began to think about the connection this could have to racial profiling and portrayals in the media. It seems to be important for the media to assure the public that, whatever the crime committed, it was done by someone who was not “normal”. This separates “us” from “them”. It is the idea of the self versus the other. This brings me to the topic of identity. Stuart States that, “Neurologically and semantically, autism is constituted primarily in terms of the individual and with individual emphases”. The insertion and repetition of the individual indicates that each person with autism has their own specific identity and different way of experiencing the disorder. Autism does not define autistic individuals, but rather informs the way they experience the world and communicate.